- Bat guano decay produced leachates resulting in phosphates and sulfates
- Minerals are grouped in precursors and result from reaction with carbonates and phyllosilicates
- Old fluvial deposits have been deeply weathered and phosphatized by guano leachates
- Pure “candy-floss” gypsum piles could be related to specific condensation/evaporation conditions
- Besides dust particles, condensation is an essential factor controlling guano decay in dry caves
The decay of bat guano deposits in caves produces mineral accumulations, mainly phosphates and secondary sulfates. Chameau Cave, Eastern Morocco, is located in the semi-arid Bni Snassen Mountains. It is composed of semi-active and dry passages, and is featured by strong condensation-corrosion on the walls, presence of fluvial sediments, and old corroded flowstones. Due to forced and convective airflow, the cave is generally very dry, with some damp sites related to condensation. Samples collected on the surface of different passages and along two sediment profiles yielded minerals related to bat guano decay. On recent or fresh guano, precursor minerals correspond to sulfate (gypsum), phosphate-sulfate (ardealite) and phosphate (brushite). Phosphates (hydroxylapatite, fluorapatite) occur at the interface with host rock or carbonate speleothems. At the contact of phyllosilicates contained in allogenic fluvial deposits or shale partings, or with pyrite-rich sediments, various phosphates occur (Al-rich strengite, Fe-rich variscite, phosphosiderite, leucophosphite, spheniscidite, crandallite, minyulite, variscite, and strengite), the latter two minerals being the stable end-members. Black seams of oxyhydroxides (goethite, hematite, birnessite) line the contact between carbonate host rock and weathered fluvial deposits. After “digestion” by acidic guano leachates, fluvial deposits only display the most resistant minerals (quartz, muscovite, K-feldspars and Na-plagioclases) and weathering byproducts (kaolinite). We discuss the origin of a pure gypsum particle cone, possibly related to evaporation at the edge of a wet cupola and subsequent detachment of sulfate particles. Among environmental conditions, humidity is required for decay. In this dry cave, most of the damp originates from either permanent or seasonal condensation. Dust particle advection seems to be essential in providing compounds that are not present on fresh guano (quartz, clay minerals). Bat guano phosphatization has probably occurred since >100 ka. The Chameau Cave appears as an outstanding site for bat guano-related minerals (n = 12), including rare phosphates (spheniscidite and minyulite).
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Audra, Philippe; Vasile Heresanu; Lionel Barriquand; Mohamed El Kadiri Boutchich; Stephane Jaillet; Edwige Pons-Branchu; Pavel Bosak; Hai Cheng; R Lawrence Edwards; and Michel Renda.
Bat guano minerals and mineralization processes in Chameau Cave, Eastern Morocco.
International Journal of Speleology,
Available at: https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/ijs/vol50/iss1/8